Hubert Mizell, a Florida sportswriter who built a national reputation for his coverage of major sporting events all over the world for a succession of newspapers and for his larger-than-life personality, died March 3 at his home in Gainesville, Fla. He was 76.
His son, Kevin Mizell, confirmed his death to the Associated Press, noting that his father had diabetes, kidney problems and congestive heart failure.
At 6-feet-4 and 300 pounds and with a booming voice, Mr. Mizell was among the most recognizable sportswriters in the nation, with a quick wit and sharp one-liners that entertained readers and colleagues alike.
His columns, primarily for the St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times), included profiles of colorful personalities such as Muhammad Ali, Red Grange and Bobby Knight and insightful pieces on the quest to attract major sports franchises to Florida. He covered the launch of three big-league teams in the Tampa Bay area: the Buccaneers of the National Football League, the Lightning of the National Hockey League and the Rays of Major League Baseball.
“Hubert was one of the personalities who put the St. Petersburg Times on the map nationally,” said Paul Tash, the chairman and chief executive of the Times and a former editor of the newspaper. “His standing in sports journalism circles was such that it made the Times better known and respected.”
Mr. Mizell was chosen national Sports Columnist of the Year in 1982 and eight times was voted Florida Sports Writer of the Year. He is a member of the College Basketball Writers Hall of Fame.
He covered 40 Masters tournaments and another 50 major championships in golf, 32 Super Bowls, 30 Final Fours, 25 World Series, 23 Daytona 500s, 22 Kentucky Derbies, nine Wimbledon tennis championships, 42 college bowl games and 10 Olympics, according to WCJB-TV in Gainesville, where Mr. Mizell did twice-weekly sports commentaries in recent years.
“Hubert was one of the very, very best writers that I was acquainted with during the time that I coached,” Knight, the Hall of Fame college basketball coach, told the Times. “As a writer, I thought it would be hard to find anybody who was more knowledgeable or more accurate in his reporting than Hubert was.”
Mr. Mizell spent much of his life around sports stars and other celebrities, and his office was filled with memorabilia and personal photos of golfer Jack Nicklaus, baseball manager Billy Martin, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, entertainer Jackie Gleason and many others.
Among the events he witnessed were the World Series earthquake at Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1989; the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics in 1972; and the Miracle on Ice, as the U.S. men’s hockey team defeated the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics.
“We’re all schooled to be neutral observers,” Mr. Mizell later wrote about the game. “But David Israel, who was then a columnist for the Chicago Tribune and later a Hollywood writer and producer, stood up in his seat, put his back to the rink, faced us all in press row and said, ‘Gentlemen, there will be cheering in the press box.’ And there was.”
Hubert Coleman Mizell was born May 2, 1939, in Dublin, Ga. His family owned neither a house nor a car.
His first job in sports was as a 14-year-old usher at a minor-league park in Jacksonville, earning $2 a game. He entered journalism as a newspaper carrier for the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. He later began answering phones and taking statistics in the sports department for $1 an hour.
He attended the University of Florida but left to take a job at the Orlando Sentinel, before returning to the Times-Union from 1960 to 1964. He then spent three years as public relations director for the Gator Bowl before returning to journalism at the Times-Union, Associated Press and Golf Digest before he settled into his role at the St. Petersburg Times in December 1973.
He became so respected among sports journalists that NBC sportscaster Bob Costas served as master of ceremonies at Mr. Mizell’s lavish retirement party in May 2001, which featured celebrity guests such as ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale.
“He might have been among the last of a breed in that there wasn’t a thimble’s worth of cynicism in him,” Costas told the Tampa Bay Times. “Maybe a journalist’s skepticism now and then, but he wrote more often about what he appreciated in sports and in people.”
Survivors include his wife of 50 years, the former Marcy Prevatt, and their son.
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